BY VANESSA GONYE
Zimbabwe has been urged to strengthen its public health systems for the country to be able to deal with a possible coronavirus outbreak after a second South African was diagnosed with the disease.
South Africa recorded its first case of coronavirus last week and yesterday the neighbouring country’s health minister said a second case had been confirmed.
The 39-year-old woman was a direct contact to the first case and was part of the group of 10 that had travelled to Italy.
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights secretary-general Norman Matara said Zimbabwe does not have basic equipment required in the identification of the coronavirus also known as Covid-19.
Matara said the country only had two World Health Organisation-recommended diagnostic computerised tomography (CT) scans.
He said there were no adequate ventilators for continuous supply of oxygen needed by coronavirus patients. Zimbabwe, Matara said, needed to step up its surveillance system.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said the South African cases were a wake-up call for Zimbabwe.
“We call for the Ministry of Health to fully prioritise building resilient health systems, and supporting research that is needs-driven, evidence-based, and adheres to the principles of affordability, equity and accessibility,” Rusike said.
“This will better equip all actors to respond when the Covid-19 outbreak occurs in Zimbabwe.”
He said the country needs to re-evaluate the national framework for pandemic preparedness, and review the performance and roles of players in health emergencies and outbreaks responses including that of aid agencies, private sector and civil society.
“Zimbabwe should recognise the global threat of Covid-19, and establish an evidence-based risk assessment and response approach, with clear action plans and strategies for preventing and responding to outbreaks,” Rusike added.
“Based on that, continuous improvement of surveillance systems, response plans, information sharing, and a one-health approach are needed to monitor the spread of the virus.
“So far, only Wilkins Hospital looks like the only properly equipped quarantine facility, so what happens when there is a suspected Covid-19 case in other regions of the country?”
Ruth Labode, the chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on health chairperson, said Zimbabwe was vulnerable to a coronavirus outbreak because it was part of the global village.
“It is expected to happen eventually because people travel,” Labode said.
“We are part of the global village, it is a matter of time before it catches up on us, we just have to continue practicing safety precautions to limit chances of the virus,” she said.
Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo insists that Zimbabwe is prepared to tackle coronavirus cases if they occur.